Alter and Erlich telling them that the N.K.V.D. in Kuibyshev had
received instructions to take good care of them and that the decision
would be communicated in due course. Colonel Volkovisty also asked
Alter and Erlich to prepare a proclamation to the Jewish masses in Poland
and America. It could be seen from these moves that the Soviet
authorities were anxious first and foremost, to make use of the influential
position which the * Bund ' held among the working classes in the U.S.A.
At 12.30 during the night of December 3rd, Erlich and Alter were
summoned to the office of the N.K.V.D. The nest day the companion
who shared their room, a member of the Central Committee of the
e Bund/ Lucian Blit, worried by their absence and lack of information
regarding their whereabouts, went to the Polish Embassy, where a formal
affidavit was sworn regarding their disappearance. The Polish Embassy
started enquiries and were finally informed that Erlich and Alter were in
prison. The reasons given for their detention varied from time to time
but had one thing in common, none of them made sense. A few days
after the arrest, on December I2th, 1941, the N.K.V.D. authorities agreed
to accept small parcels of underwear for the prisoners, but would not
accept any parcel of food. An official of the N.K.V.D. declared " They
are better fed than you are."
Until the moment of their re-arrest^ there was no disputing the fact that
the Soviet atmosphere around Erlich and Alter had been charged with
absolute confidence in the sincerity of their attitude and intentions. No
one could have foreseen that the efforts of these two men were to conie to
such a tragic end. The event came as a complete surprise to the Poles,
The following is the text of a cable sent to the Soviet Foreign Commissar,
Molotov, on January 27th, 1943, by a group of leading citizens of the
United States—men such as William Green, President of the American
Federation of Labour, Professor Albert Einstein, Rev. Henry Smith
Leper, Executive Secretary of the Universal Christian Council, Leo
Krzycki, President of the American Slav Congress and others like them,
once more requesting the release of H. Erlich and V. Alter,
" It is now more than a year since Henryk Erlich and Victor Alter, two
prominent leaders of Jewish masses, in Poland, were re-arrested in Kuibyshev.
Most prominent representatives of freedom-loving people throughout the
world of British and American Labour Movements repeatedly requested
their release in vain. To-day^ when universal public opinion unites in
condemnation of Nazi criminals who are murdering in cold blood entire
Jewish population, in Poland, we renew in name of justice and humanity
our request for release of these outstanding courageous fighters against
Fascism and Nazism, Henryk Erlich and Victor Alter."
The reply came :—
" Embassy of the Soviet Union, Washington, D.C.>" February 23, 1943.
" Dear Mr. Green*
" I am informed by Mr. Molotov, People's Commisar of Foreign Affairs,
of the receipt by forn of a telegram signed by you, concerning two Soviet
citizens, Alter and ErKch.